As we reflect on the trade sending Sebastian Velasquez to Jason Kreis's New York City FC, we're left feeling conflicted.
On one hand, Velasquez is clearly a very talented player. His dribbling ability and bravado — those features which enable his tendency to run at players — they're exciting features. They're things you can't just teach a player, and they break the system a little bit. Not in a bad way, of course — it's that these sorts of attributes that disrupt possession play and make the goings difficult for opponents.
On the other hand, there are reasons Sebastian Velasquez found playing time hard to come by in 2014. When his career started at Real Salt Lake, he wasn't expected to play much at all, so his 403 minutes of action were an unexpected treat.
His second season, 892 minutes seemed a reasonable increase, but he'll have wanted to make more of an impact — and he did in the playoffs against LA Galaxy.
His third season — the season we're coming from — will be his low. Only playing 202 minutes will frustrate him, but that's something we can understand with context.
His off-the-field issues (his DUI charge and subsequent guilty plea) hampered his playing time to a pretty significant extent. He'd been earning minutes off the bench regularly, appearing as a substitute four matches in a row in mid-April. After his arrest, he appeared significantly less frequently — although more than half of his minutes (133, to be precise) came after that point, mostly because he started a match against San Jose in which he scored his first regular season goal.
It looked increasingly like Velasquez was coming back into the fold by that point. He remained a fan favorite. He'd impressed in reserves minutes, and he'd started to look like he could make it in MLS. And now? A trade to New York City.
We don't know if there were internal reasons for this trade. Speculation wouldn't be fair to him or the club. But after three years and playing 1,517 regular season minutes — maybe it was time for a change. Maybe this, his fourth MLS season, will be the one that sees him push forward into a more prominent role.
Maybe it's the sort of thing he needs to kick-start his career. We don't need to speculate about distractions or personal life concerns — we can see this as a good move inside the context of the team. Every match he didn't play for Real Salt Lake in 2015 would become part of a larger, overarching narrative — no matter the reason he didn't play. At New York City, that won't be the case. He'll be in a new group, and while he'll have to fight for his time again, it'll be a fresh experience. The narrative should dissipate. That will be refreshing.
We'll see how it works out for the kid. We'll always have that goal against LA Galaxy to remember him by, but if we're to be frank, that won't be why he's remembered. It'll be that he was always excited to play, that he was good to the fans, and that he was fun to watch. We'll miss him for those reasons.